“Beta? No… that’s impossible.” I sat staring at Elder Luke in disbelief, unsure if he really had just suggested that. “… Why?” Elder Luke argued. “Because I’m a female,” I pointed out. “There is no such thing as a female Beta. It’s not a rank we can hold.”
“And neither is an Alpha female, but we both know you could claim that authority if you really wanted it.”
He was referring to my new title of ‘Saintess’. With it came the perk of overthrowing Aleric and becoming essentially an Alpha in the process. But Beta…? I paused in thought. No, it really wasn’t possible. Being a leader was one thing. I knew I would be capable of making the correct choices for the pack as an ‘Alpha’, however, as a Beta, there would be more reliance on being able to carry out whatever those orders entailed; sometimes b y means of fighting. I had never even managed to win in a fight against Cai, there was no way I would be able to hold my own in a real battle
“I’m not strong enough. The Winter Mist would need someone more like my father to replace him one day. I know already that I would make an incredibly weak Beta.”
He half-smiled knowingly. “A little birdie told me that you were training with a certain Alpha heir from the Silver Lake pack. They mentioned that you showed quite good potential too.”
My jaw opened in surprise. How could someone have found out about that? Only Cai, Myra and I knew about it. Not only that but, whoever this person was that told him, they must have seen me in action at the gym. Otherwise, how else were they able to provide any sort of assessment of my skill?
“How...?” I finally managed to ask. He chuckled softly. “I didn‘t get to where I am today without help. Not all of us are born into ranked families.”
I had never thought much about it before, but it was true. I could vaguely remember hearing that Elder Luke had come from a completely average house with humble beginnings. He had gotten to where he was now due to his own dedication and hard work
“Even if I can fight a little, there is no way I would be accepted as a Beta,” I said, bringing the conversation back to the topic at hand. “I don’t see any way the Elders or Aleric would allow it. The Elders are adamant about me fulfilling the prophecy and becoming Aleric‘s Luna. And Aleric… well there is no way he would tolerate a female Beta, let alone being stuck with me of all people.”
“You talk as if you already know exactly what will happen,” he said, making me become instantly tense. I had to remind myself that it was just a figure of speech to relax again. “I feel that you need to think about this more objectively. Out of all the options you have before you, which one seems the hardest to achieve your goal? Starting a political takeover and
overthrowing an existing hierarchy…? Or convincing a bunch of old coots and a teenager to give you a chance at a role that already has a current vacancy for an heir? I think you‘d be surprised by how many Elders would be in favour of you becoming Beta just to ensure you remained compliant. It seems to me like it is the best compromise to keep both parties happy. Otherwise, there isn’t much to stop you from starting a rebellion or running away. Both of which would only cause more damage to the pack. They need your cooperation given your status.”
I bit at my lip, trying to think through the options properly. It still felt so unattainable even though he had laid it out nicely before me.
“Or you can just take the easy route… s**k it up and become Luna.”
I shivered. No. To hold that title again would be a last resort, though I wasn’t sure I could even call it that. To be stuck in that house at the mercy of Aleric once more was a fate that guaranteed my death. A death that I needed to remember was not just the end of me now, but possibly everyone.
So, would it be so impossible…? I had already been training and there were no males in my direct family line to compete with for the rank. Only Alexander, my cousin, could possibly stand in my way. In the past, he had begun his training around my current age and had ended u p becoming Beta right before my death. If I was, by some miracle, accepted as a Beta heir then things between us may get uncomfortable. I was essentially robbing him of something he must have thought was a sure thing. How could he have anticipated that a female Beta may be possible? But if I were a male then he would have had no right to the succession anyway.
And then I took a moment to realise the real benefits of this. Becoming Beta basically guaranteed me almost absolute immunity in every way. By pledging myself as a Beta to Aleric, i t would be impossible to be forced to become Luna by anyone. Once the oath is taken, another rank cannot be granted within that pack. It also gave me a legitimate reason to officially reject him without questions being asked, since dating what is effectively your boss would be frowned upon. If we went into battle against another pack, then we would need to be unbiased towards each other, therefore a relationship was definitely out of the question.
But the best perk of all? It meant that he couldn‘t lay a finger on me. Being both a Saintess and a Beta would make me completely untouchable. If he tried anything, then he’d risk the pack rising up against him since it would be seen as a direct attack against the Goddess herself. Then add in the fact that I was already second in command? He could forget keeping his position for long… and guess who would replace him as next in line? Me. It was effectively check-mate, unable to move or he’d be overthrown.
And maybe, for once in his life, he would have to respect me. Not just a ridiculous nod of acknowledgement, but actually value my input. He would be unable to outrightly contest the decisions I’d suggest, without good reason, and would be forced to have a real discussion with me as a valued ranked member. “No… you’re right. Thank you, Elder Luke,” I said, still a bit lost in my thoughts. “You‘ve given me a lot to think about.” Soon after we’d spoken, I ended up returning home. I didn‘t talk to my parents about what had happened in great detail but I did let them know that the mark was officially confirmed now. They looked worried for me, but I didn’t let on how I was feeling inside. If they knew just how
conflicted and anxious I was, they would only become more concerned. I didn’t want to say anything to them yet until I’d had time to process everything that had happened with Elder Luke.
Several weeks later and it was finally the day of Myra’s big annual charity event. I’d chosen to wear a navy blue semi-formal dress and Lucy had done my hair up in a beautiful half-up style braid. It was probably the most i’d dressed up for any occasion since coming back, but I knew the event meant a lot to Myra. I wanted to show her I‘d put the effort in. The function was being held at the orphanage itself so the children could participate. Whilst it was used mostly as a fundraiser, it was also a great opportunity for some of the guests to meet the children in a less pressured environment, and maybe even consider adopting. I had already planned to donate a large cheque under my alias name, and another smaller one o n behalf of the Chrysalis family, with my parent’s permission for that one, of course. Knowing Myra, she would have made me take the money back if she knew if I was donating a very large sum, hence the need for my personal account donation. When I arrived, I was instantly greeted by the usual overly enthusiastic Myra. She pulled me into a hug and expressed how happy she was to see me. Much to my delight, I saw she was wearing the red dress I had bought her. But I had to admit, I was a little surprised to have found her so quickly given the number of people congregating around the outside. “Come with me, I have some people I’d like you to meet,” she said smiling, grabbing my hand so I’d follow her through the crowds.
We walked behind the large building until we came to a less busy area. I could see this place must have been used primarily as a playground or backyard for the kids.
I had been looking around to take it all in, lost in my thoughts over how pretty the grounds were, when I was suddenly tackled around my waist. I swayed, throwing my feet out to keep m y balance and looked down.
There, I found a small child had launched themself at me.
“Billy!” Myra scolded, gently pulling him off me. “You need to ask permission first to touch someone. Apologise to Miss Aria right now.” I felt awkward given I had no experience with children, and I definitely hadn’t anticipated for one to latch themself onto me so quickly. But I did my best to act the way one would expect to treat a child.
“I’m sorry, Miss Aria,” the small blonde boy said, looking sad. “It’s fine! Thank you for apologising.” I smiled at him to let him know it was okay.
Suddenly more children appeared and before long, I had a small group of six kids surrounding me, their faces filled with so much excitement over just meeting me. Myra went through and introduced them all to me one-by-one. The eldest in the group was nine, the youngest was six. Myra mentioned there were more around somewhere and that they would probably be disappointed to find out later they hadn’t gotten the chance to meet me personally.
“Umm, Miss Aria?” a little girl named Lily spoke up.
I crouched down to talk to her at eye level. “Yes, Miss Lily?” “My name is just Lily, not Miss,” she corrected. “I was wondering if you‘d… if um…if you‘d like to play with us.” “Miss Aria is not here to play today, Lily,” Myra replied. I smiled at them both. “No, it‘s okay. What would you like to play?” “I want to play tag,” said one of the boys, Trevor. The children all began to cheer in agreement at that idea. And so, we did. We played tag. I couldn’t deny that it definitely wasn’t the easiest game I’d ever played, given my attire, but luckily they found it more fun when I was too slow to catch them. Or rather pretended I was too slow. By the end of the game, they were all huddled together in the middle of the field, completely out of breath. Taking advantage of their exhausted states, I decided to take a seat under one of the nearby trees that had a bench.
“Looks like you had fun,” Myra said. She had spent the time looking on fondly at us playing together over by the sidelines. I had been watching the kids chatting away happily that I hadn‘t even seen Myra approach.
“You should join in next time.”
I looked up to her but then, to my surprise, I saw her expression change from a smile to suddenly one of worry very quickly. “Are you okay, Aria?” she asked. Her voice was thick with concern. I frowned. “Of course, why?” “…You‘re crying.” Confused, I gently brought a hand up to my face and, sure enough, there were tears on my cheek
“What...?” “Are you feeling okay?” she asked. Was I feeling okay? I had been having a nice time with the kids, I wasn’t sure what could have
possibly upset me so much. And then I realised what my body had been trying to tell me. I looked down and saw I had subconsciously placed a hand over my belly without even realising it. I must have done it when I had been watching over them. I knew then what had upset me. A part of me was remembering the fact that I would never be able to have a child of my own. I was crying over the baby I had never been able to conceive in my past life.
“Oh…,” was all I managed to say.
But I didn’t get a chance to talk my way out of it as suddenly all the children were in a frenzy again, someone else having arrived. I pushed all my negative thoughts to the side and forced a small smile on my face at seeing how they were able to become energetic again so quickly. However, the expression died on my face just as quickly as it had arrived as I looked over to see who they were running towards. Because it was Aleric who had arrived.